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Helping Ken
by Joe Cottonwood

“Hey Ken, need a hand?”
Nope.
“Can I help anyway?”
Doubt it.

Old Ken couldn’t lift this dock alone,
but he’d manage
with the wile of eighty-odd years
to winch, drag, set it in place.
His movements, stiff.
His knees, weathered.
His grip, when we shake hands,
like the clamp of death.

Job done,
he climbs aboard his
skeletal tractor,
a relic, ‘Fifty-One Ford,
for the uphill journey home.
Maintained where it counts,
the naked motor
purrs.

First published in Northampton Poetry Review (Spring 2019).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Ken Laundry was caretaker for summer camps on Silver Lake in the Adirondacks. He is one of my heroes for his integrity, his rugged endurance, his ability to get the job done. I had the life-changing experience of working with him and learning his inventive make-do solutions to rural emergencies. He passed away recently, but he was chainsawing trees and installing docks until in his late eighties he fell off the roof of his barn while patching shingles, which slowed him down a bit.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTIONS: I took the photo of Ken and his walking stick, as well as the photo of his tractor, which was never old. He gave me the photo of himself as a young man.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Cottonwood has spent a lifetime repairing other people’s homes and is still repairing his own. He lives with his high school sweetheart in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book is Random Saints.